Sunday, 27 July 2014

It's the high seas for the Safari

The Safari has been out on the ocean waves, or lack of them as it was almost like a mill pond out there.
Once we were underway our seabird and cetacean survey started with a plethora of Herring Gulls in their bewildering variety of plumages that they have a this time of year. Once we reached the river mouth the Common Terns were passing too and fro from the nature reserve at the end of the dock, the ones coming in were all carrying small fish although we didn't get to see the location of their fishing grounds. Just one was going the 'wrong' way to the next nearest colony some distance away in the other river but why fish here when 'our' colony's birds were coming from that direction or was the fish brought in deemed unsuitable and had to be taken away!
Once well out of the river and in  'open' water the Gannets and Manx Shearwaters started to show and become more and more frequent but there were very few Kittiwakes out there today. 
Many of the Gannets were becalmed in the light winds and flat sees, most were just sitting on the water and very very few were fishing. That is until the boat was closing them down at 20+ knots and threatened to run them over, only then did they lift and fly out of the way.
We tried to get a few pics but failed miserably, her's the only one we dared keep and even then we've only included it in a highly processed state - the original is just about unviewable and this is by far the best!
No, that paler blotch isn't what you first thought it was
The first cetaceans weren't far off and were probably just out of sight over the horizon from Patch 2, a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins, sadly they didn't stick around. Harbour Porpoises followed later in small groups. Bizarelly all were first seen dead ahead of the ship, the last Bottlenose Dolphin came out of nowhere at us almost like a Mediaeval jouster - and whoosh went straight down the side of the ship padding only yards away.
Once past the Isle of Man the weather closed in and rain started making spotting somewhat difficult but we passed through it and out the other side the approach to Belfast was very pleasant with another Harbour Porpoise.
Highlight of the trip for us is looking out for the Black Guillemots that inhabit Belfast Loch, somehow they remind us of mad moths, particularly Humming Bird Hawkmoths for some reason.
Tired but content in the knowlwdg3e we'd done a good job helping contribute to the knowledge of our brilliant marine life and hence its conservation for the future, we had a couple of well earned beers of a certain Irish species.
If you fancy joining the survey teams there's a list of the forthcoming training courses  for the rest of the year is here - we look forward to having join us on a survey one day.
The return to Liverpool, actually Birkenhead, is overnight but at this time of year it's light enough to have your fill of the great (and becoming more imposing with some interesting designs) skyline as the ferry approaches it's berth.

Don't know why we didn't get a pic of the Ruby Princess that was docked at the Pier Head when we were leaving - one huge ship!
The drive back to Base Camp was witness to a sad carnage of Hedgehogs, there were far too many recently killed, some from their position on the road looked as though they'd been deliberately murdered rather than unavoidably accidentally hit.
Nothing much of note in the garden at Base Camp this arvo but our Extreme Photographer has very kindly fixed our moth trap socket before he sets off on an adventure to wildest west Wales at the end of the week - for ever! We're going to miss his company on safari but he promises to keep his camera handy and send pics for us to show you what he's been finding on his travels.

Where to next? National Whale and Dolphin Watch next week and we have a few you can join in with.
In the meantime let us know who's been leading the charge in your outback.

Friday, 25 July 2014

A quieter day all round

The Safari was a little disappointed with Patch 2 today, very very quiet out there. seems 'our' Bottlenose Dolphins have nicked across the bay to North Wales. 
We've got you a sort of pic of the Ladies Bedstraw from yesterday.
Nice to have it on site, let's hope it spreads.
We were there snapping away at the Ladies Bedstraw because we wanted to get better pics of the Leaf Cutter Bees that have been hanging around the adjacent Hardheads and had a bit of a wait for them to return after we'd seen them earlier.
Still no sign of the Leaf Cutters when a Meadow Brown turned up so we pointed the camera at that.
Then we saw them, the little rotters had moved down the hedgerow a few yards on to some really scratty Hardheads struggling in the hot dry conditions we're enjoying at the mo.
Got them in the end but still don't know what species they aare.
Back at Base Camp just before tea-time this little beaut started flying round the kitchen.
 Once potted and settled it began to do a weird headstand and proceed to clean its hind legs.
Where to next? No blogging tomorrow as we're Cap'n of the High Seas on a marineLIFE survey across the Irish Sea.
In the meantime let us know what came in to help with the cooking in your outback.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Another late addition

The Safari didn't see any blubber today - well not marine blubber, plenty of human blubber on display in the 27C+ temperatures.
We were looking for (marine) blubber when a huge Salmon leapt out of the water through our field of view. Nothing much else was out there.
A break from the heat of the office (over 30C showing on the thermometer on the desk by our side) saw us back on the seawall for a bit of breeze. There we found a real rarity, a Ladybird! And not just a 'normal' one a slightly unusual 10-spot Ladybird.
A meander round the gardens gave us a Common Blue and Meadow Brown butterflies but no Graylings yet.
The Leaf Cutter Bees were out enjoying the nectar in the Hardheads again but we really do need a better pic to get them IDd to species.
It was while we were kneeling down trying to get better bee pics we noticed a  small yellow plant by our knee, Ladies Bedstraw, the first we seen in the grassland here and probably a result of our 'Say No to the Mow' policy for 2 metres from the hedge.
At lunch we had a rendezvous with former comrade at arms LR for a bit more blubber spotting. No joy but a couple of Swallows zooting about the wall gave up an interloper in the form of a House Martin (P2 #64) was a very late addition to the Patch list. They used to breed nearby until development robbed them of their mud supply putting paid to their local breeding site. 64 species for the year on the Patch is still a long way off our target of 90!
A bit of god news from last night was that while Pimms was being enjoyed on the patio in the balmy evening a Pipistrelle Bat flew over us (along with many moths) the first we've seen - actually we didn't see it but Wifey and our guests all spotted it. Excellent news - we know what we're doing tonight and it involves, not unsurprisingly, the bat detector.
Where to next? Back to the sweltering inferno tomorrow - actually we really like the heat but if hear one more whinger saying it's too hot we swear blind we'll swing for them! It'll only be a matter of a few days before this gorgeous sunshine will be but a distant memory.
In the meantime let us know who;s sprung up unexpectedly in your outback

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Weather's to nice for blogging

The Safari went trying to catch a year bird up on arch year-listing rival Monika yesterday. There's been a Mandarin duck on a local wetland for a week or so and so having a day off we decided on a filthy twitch.
Try as we might we couldn't find it, three circuits we did to no avail but there was plenty there of interest and we spent a a few minutes over two hours there in the end.
Iffy pic but it shows the fish is a Perch
Now you see me
Now you don't - or won't in a tick
Before setting off we opened the moth trap and had a micro-fest
Diamond Back Moth
A deceased one of those nightmary ones
Second brood Shuttle Shaped Dart
Also in the trap was one for those clever iSpotters, a rather chunky diving beetle
Once we were back from the wetland we spent the rest of the day in a rather hot garden - loverrrrly!
Next door's Rowan tree was bedecked with berries at the weekend 
but has been severely ravaged already!
 There wasn't quite as much by way of invertebrates but enough to keep us and the camera interested
Honey Bee - to be honest we didn't recognise it as such and had to get help!
Time out for a wash n brush up
The most interesting sighting wasn't able to be photographed - a small dark butterfly flitting along the tree tops past our Silver Birch and lost in amongst the neighbour's Sycamore...too dark for a Holly Blue...White Letter Hairstreak...oooohhhh possibly???
Today we weren't able to get out much but did see a Sandwich Tern fishing catch a large silver fish (species???) and feed it to its youngster.
Two, possibly three, Bottlenose dolphins were reported to us and we put the news out but there was no way we could get away from the desk unfortunately. We had no blubber at all today.
Where to next? Hopefully we'll be able to get out on to Patch 2 for a bit longer tomorrow and have a proper look.
In the meantime let us know who's scoffed all the what in your outback.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Slow start then Boom!

The Safari only managed a short and late early look at Patch 2, nothing much doing on the dropping tide but a couple of Common Terns followed by a couple of Sandwich Terns all looking very dapper in the good morning light. 
A quick look round the gardens for the Big Butterfly Count only gave us a Large White and a Meadow Brown but we did re-find the Leaf Cutter Bees, well one of them at least - nectaring on Hardheads. still no chance of a pic though.
Another look at the sea at lunchtime when the tide was low was even worse than earlier, lots of disturbance on the beach which was hardly surprising with the lovely weather and some schools now finished for the summer. Plenty of first  flight Herring Gulls were sat on the water and a larger blob bobbing beyond them was the back of a Grey Seal's head.
That was the full compliment at work until we were walking past the pond to the car park where we slowed to a a toddle to watch a male Blackbird enjoying a real good old shake down now the water level has dropped enough for him to perch on the concrete ledge.
Tomorrow we have another day off so needed to put the moth trap out, once that was done we decided to water the Tomatoes even though the sun had,'t quite gone off them, the alternative was to wait until after tea - we didn't wait but went to the water butt and started to fill the watering can. That was when a large movement caught our eye by the kitchen window - a dragonfly - - AND it settled. Now we were in a dilemma, our camera and phone were indoors would we be able to get past it to grab them without either flushing it or it getting bored just hanging and upping and leaving.
As you can see, it stuck around! We had to balance precariously with one foot on a wobbly chair and the other on the edge of the woodpile to get anywhere near it. A Migrant Hawker, not a bad addition to the Base Camp year list. Chuffed!
Where to next? The mothy is out and it;s a warm muggy night, waht will be in the depths in the morning?
In the meantime let us know who had you balancing precariously in your outback.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

How to drown a moth

The Safari made the decision to put the moth trap out late last night. The forecast wasn't too bad and we sort of hoped we'd miss almost all the rain being on the coast.
The best laid plans don't always work though and when we went out to inspect it this morning the light was still on but the ground was very wet. We turned off the lamp relieved that that the electrics hadn't tripped out and peered into the trap. Needless to say there was quite a bit of water in the bottom and many of the egg boxes were pretty soggy but there were moths and a more of them than we've had on any other night this year.
We had a few unknown escapes and were so excited about what might be hidden further in that we took forgot to take any pics of some of the belters like the Yellow Shell and the stunning Broad Bordered Yellow Underwing.
Photos were reserved for the unknowns and one or two rarely seens
Acleris forsskaleana - several of these bonny micros
Brown House Moth
Lime Speck Pug - at last a pug we can just about identify
This pug was more troublesome but we've plumbed for Currant Pug
What's worse than finding a maggot in your Apple? Finding half a maggot! If you did find a maggot in your Apple it would be the larva of one of these Codling Moths
We had no idea what these were and had to go for professional help from the Lancashire Lepidopterans
The small dark one on the left required attention, about 25% smaller than the Codling Moth
Here it is enlarged and processed a bit - turns out to be a dark form of Bud Moth, Spilonota ocellana
That one, small as it was, was a veritable giant compared to this miniscule little chap - we could barely see it even with our glasses on! Bet it wasn't 4mm full length.
Not only was it tiny-wee but could we find it in the field guide, it's so distinctive we were sure it must be new to science! Honest!! We got a name though, what for it it's a fair few letter long - Phyllonorycter geniculella, an inhabitant of Sycamores, one of which barely 25 feet from the trap location! Hardly new to science, it is described on the excellent UK Moths as common!
The Ermine moths are white with black spots, as in dead Stoats worn by 'royalty' (each black spot on their robe is a dead Stoat's tail - disgusting!) but this one is silvery grey and we're not too sure which one it is, possibly Orchard Erminie, Yponomeuta padella but they are a notoriously difficult group to identify even with dissection!
55 moths of 27 species - easily our best catch of the year.
There were a couple of caddisflies in there too.
This one is probably a Caddis but could be a moth...
Might have to trouble those clever iSpotters later.
This arvo we hit Chat Alley for a couple of hours to watch the tide up in the hope of finding more Bottlenose Dolphins. There weren't any but blubber was represented by three Grey Seals
Birds were few and far between apart from a decent flock of Common Scoters making their way north behind some 'weather'. Two Whimbrels passed southwards well out to sea followed by a single almost overhead and then two more we heard calling and called back to making them circle over us a couple of times - love it when that happens. The star of the session was  fly-by adult Mediterranean Gull at nose height, quality unexpected bird, well happy.
Where to next? Back at work tomorrow with another gang of out-of-town youngsters eager to learn about our brilliant beach - will they be able top the Burnley crew's find yesterday?
In the meantime let us know what's ridiculously well patterned despite its tiny size in your outback.